Senior week. The perfect prom. Finally getting to walk across the stage and receive a diploma. Events that the Class of 2020 has been aching to experience for the last four years of their lives. Now, those aspirations have been taken away.
The recent pandemic COVID-19 has swept across many nations, resulting in cities shutting down across the world. In turn, school campuses have been closed for several weeks and some have resorted to remote learning. Remote learning, or lack thereof for some institutions, in the education system has taken its toll on teachers and students.
But no group has been more affected than the Class of 2020.
Finishing up their last year of high school, the Class of 2020 was approaching their final moments at their schools when they would be able to say goodbye before taking their next steps. With these last few months being taken away from them, the senior class is not able to experience the final part of their high school journey that is often filled with the most tradition and memories.
Yet, the senior class still has hope, and that hope can be found in the Class of 2020 project projected across America.
In various states, the Class of 2020 project was initiated to unite seniors with the events that would regularly happen in school. Each state has its own Instagram page where seniors from their state are able to see current events and activities.
“The goal is to try to plan spirit events and other virtual senior activities that all of our schools can participate in to try and make our students’ last few months more positive and fun,” explained Jay Alonzo Smith, Head of the Outreach Committee.
“[The Class of 2020 project] started in Arizona in mid-March,” said Luis Esteva, ASB president of Sonoma Valley High School and co-founder of the California account. “[The project] is pretty independent. It is groups of high school students in different states, making these accounts and trying to organize student government events but on a state-wide level.”
Luis founded the California Class of 2020 account following the release of the Arizona account. After contacting the multiple ASB presidents throughout the schools in California, Luis used his connections to gain members for the California project.
“[The co-founders and I] texted everyone we knew from every different high school saying ‘here is the pitch, are you interested,’” said Luis. “[The people who were interested] would spread the word and within a few days, we really started picking up some steam. From there, we had group meetings and assigned people to groups.”
Now, the account has over 240 student body presidents from across the state. Once the California account got its feet off the ground with their outreach, the project members formed committees to further the success of the account. Along with outreach, there are Spirit, Live Stream, Northern California, Southern California, Creative Design, and New Idea committees.
“I work within the outreach committee,” said Ojai Valley School student body president, Aaron Wolf. “I am in charge of a spreadsheet with the 4000 other schools in California and I get contact information from people who join the group.”
From there, Aaron assigns each person schools to reach out to in their district and the word continues to spread. The project extends beyond simple word of mouth, however. Outside of the official Instagram account, the California section has multiple social media platforms including a Twitter, Discord, and YouTube where their followers are able to live stream and chat with the project members.
“Each week we do like online engagement activities such as spirit days, live streams, talent show nights, and live chats for people to connect virtually,” said Jay. “…We want all the seniors to feel like they have resources and other friends to connect with, after all, they deserve it in regards to school shutting so early.”
In the last month, the account has produced multiple spirit days like Music Monday where they live stream with a handful of student musicians and perform original songs or Pajama Day. The program has had great success amongst seniors, distracting them from the uncertainty of the virus. But seniors are not alone when it comes to recognizing the account.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback from not only seniors, but also parents, teachers, and staff who feel like this is a wonderful way to allow the class to feel more connected with one another in these desperate and challenging times,” said Jay.
Major news outlet ABC 7 has also heard and shared the California account, recognizing that seniors are coming together during self-quarantine.
As of today, there are over 6,000 followers on their Instagram page. Posting nearly every day, the project members remain busy which is one of the objectives of the project.
“Working on these types of projects is what [the ASB presidents] are passionate about,” explained Luis. “We are giving them a chance to be active in planning something they love doing and distracting them from the pandemic that’s going on. So not only are we trying to help people by putting on a spirit week but intuitively making [the members] benefit from the existence of this project.”
Luis and the other members are excited to engage with new seniors across the state every week while watching the account grow and flourish. But as the future is ambiguous for the world, it is for the account as well. The California Class of 2020 project may end when the quarantine order is lifted, however, it has been a beacon of light for many students and citizens of the state.
“We want all the seniors to feel like they have resources and other friends to connect with,” said Jay. “After all, they deserve it.”
Look at the California Class of 2020 Instagram page here